The Forza Horizon 4 Lego expansion is a powerful gateway to your childhood
When Playground Games unveiled its LEGO Speed Champions expansion for the seminal Forza Horizon 4 just over a week ago, it immediately divided the gaming community. Half seemed to think it looked like quite a cool concept (albeit one that no one could really envisage fully working in the context of FH4), while the other half seemed to be a bit sick of everything being LEGO-fied.
Neither party should have been worried. Because after a few hours of playing, the LEGO expansion for FH4 has repeatedly poked its fingers into my brain and prodded deep-rooted childhood memories that I'd not been in touch with for decades. And I'm grateful. And does LEGO work in the world of Forza? Hell yes.
For a start, the LEGO valley map is completely separate from the standard UK world that you'd normally drive around in FH4. And the artwork is utterly gob smacking.
From the perfectly captured matte reflections from the studded LEGO baseplates that formed the foundations of your childhood towns, to the way crash barriers break into their constituent bricks – you know, those long thin black axles with an X-shaped cross-section, and the flat 1x2 studs that hold it all together. Everything feels believably LEGO. Look at this picture. You could go away and recreate that smashed-up barrier given enough time and patience.
The thing that really grabbed me by the memories and plunged my 33-year-old brain back into single digits and the early 1990s, was when I clipped a tree in my Speed Machines Mini. It didn't shatter into bricks like many of the other trees in the world, because it was a single piece. It was the sort of LEGO tree that's a single shade of green and made up of stacked layers to give the sensation of branches and depth. I'd not seen one since I was about eight years old – I used to roll it on its side around the living room floor because it felt weird.
And it was probably great at picking up crumbs of pickled onion Monster Munch.
In an instant I was back in my parents' living room and hiding behind the sofa while they watched a rented copy of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. It was well past my bedtime and my parents had no idea I was listening to every word that passed Kevin Costner's lips. I eventually made a noise and my parents found me lurking in my hideyhole – and they let me sit and watch the rest of the film. That's probably against the parenting rules that I'm now trying to follow with a four-month-old baby of my own, but it was a fantastic memory of a great childhood.
I parked my Mini next to the tree, entered photo mode and had a bit of a reminisce while I tried to capture the moment on digital film, trying to fathom if one day there'll be a Forza Horizon 14 add-on that mimics the art style of Forza Horizon 4 Lego Speed Champions. It all got a bit meta so I got back to nailing those drift zones in my Lego F40. Be quiet, brain.
The LEGO expansion for FH4 is out now on Xbox and PC – give it a go, but be warned – you might feel a bit soppy.